I have been asked why, if I am blogging about the Liverpool City-Region, I have so much to say about Liverpool city, and relatively little about the other five boroughs. I would like to say that all is comparatively well in those boroughs, whilst Liverpool is a constant source of political concern. This would be partly true; but there are other reasons for a Liverpool focus which I would have thought were self- evident.
Whether others like it or not, the city is the region’s principal driver. As with Manchester, the city’s size and its name together give an extra dimension to its regional importance. It is not for nothing that in the two dominant regions of the north-west, the major print media take the names of their host cities – the Liverpool Echo and the Manchester Evening News. They reflect the prominence of their respective driver-boroughs.
Here in Liverpool, we have the additional quirk of an elected mayor. This alone merits extra attention, not only because of its exceptionalism, but also because of the disputed way in which the office was imposed without a referendum, and the continuously controversial character of the office holder. Mayor Anderson generates huge publicity for his personality cult, generally with an adverse public reaction.
For example, he has made yet another announcement on the proposed cruise liner terminal. This will apparently cost £50 million, but there is no mention of the source of this funding in a cash-strapped city. A cynical city asks whether it will join the long list of broken promises as the mayor continues to align himself with so-called “developers” rather than with the real needs of the city. Time will tell.
After all, there is no other local civic leader who so unashamedly chases headlines. Nor is there another council so sidelined from effective governance by its leader as is Liverpool City Council. Thus, whilst other boroughs tend to get on with the business of providing core services in these times of austerity, Liverpool councillors are peripheral to the quixotic decisions of Mayor Anderson as he blunders on, lost in a mistaken belief in his own abilities.
Mind you, if the local media was in any way effective in monitoring our local councils, rather than just pouring out meaningless pap, we might learn of issues which deserve a public profile within the city-region. The fact is that the local media is solely in the business of infotainment. As a result, a blanket of silence covers the activities of the other councils. All that surfaces is the blindingly inept way in which Liverpool is run, and the corruption that feeds off poor governance.
Also, the honest truth is that, nationally, no one really cares what happens here, unless there is a political threat of some sort emanating from here, or a political advantage to be gained. The success story in the north- west for national leaders is down the M62 in Manchester. This has been the case before, and it means that any change up here will be largely down to the city-region itself.
It is vital to understand just how interdependent the six boroughs are. The whole concept of a city-region with a metromayor is that we sink or swim together – economically, politically and administratively. One sick borough can infect the rest. That is why the metromayor must have the powers appropriate to dealing with any borough or ego which threatens the well-being of the city-region as a whole. In turn, the metromayor must be prepared to exercise those powers when the situation demands it.